Battle: Los Angeles is just 45 minutes long. This shooter-flavored advertisement for the alien-invasion movie that landed in theaters earlier this month is one of the slightest games to ever hit Xbox Live Arcade. For 800 points, you get a simplistic, easy single-player campaign that even a shooter rookie can blast through in under an hour. And that's it. There are no multiplayer modes, no challenge levels, and no extra frills of any sort to hold your interest a moment longer than it takes to finish the campaign and reach a "Thanks for Playing" message that comes off more like an "LOL Thanks for Giving Us Your Money" parting shot.
Even if the gameplay in Battle: Los Angeles were great, it would be difficult to throw out any laurels for a $10 game that lasts less than half as long as the movie on which it is based. But you don't even have to contemplate that value proposition, because this is a bland shooter with no distinguishing characteristics whatsoever. In the rather grandiosely named "campaign," which isn't much longer than the tutorial missions in other shooters, you take on the role of a marine fighting the alien hordes that have swamped the City of Angels. Levels are set in LA rubble, with you running around on the wrecked city streets with a small squad of buddies. All you do is move from one choke point to another, hunkering down behind cars and chunks of concrete whenever the beanpole extraterrestrials show up and start taking potshots at you.
The whole campaign plays out like the first level of a game that was never completed. You face just one kind of alien enemy along with a couple of walking gun contraptions that serve as mobile turrets. Alien foes never vary their approach or battle tactics. They're just there every so often when you round a corner, either hiding behind wreckage or standing atop nearby buildings or buses. Aliens mostly present themselves as targets, because even though they demonstrate some awareness of a need to take cover when marines show up with big guns, the invaders are too tall to fully hide behind the junk littering the streets. Hello, headshots. Just four types of weapons are available for your hot little hands: a standard M16-style assault rifle, frag grenades, a sniper rifle with scope, and a rocket launcher. Most of the time you use the assault rifle, because the sniper rifle and rocket launcher are typically saved for the few moments when you shoot aliens to cover a buddy or blast big alien ships out of the sky.
Even when you're running and gunning, gameplay is plodding and methodical. It takes almost a full clip to kill an alien, which really slows things down. Making the pace even more excruciating, you spend almost all of your fighting time peeking around cover waiting for an opportune moment to stand up and shoot. Little challenge is offered by any of the combat. Your marine can take a lot of punishment, and he can totally heal up by hiding out for a few moments. Ammo crates are plentiful, which means that you never have to worry about running out of anything. As a result, you can get through the campaign with ease, dying no more than once or twice no matter which of the three difficulty settings you select. So you reach the game's finale in under 45 minutes of play. And that's without rushing. Some players are making it to the finish line a lot faster judging by the leaderboard, which shows quite a few clocked times well under 20 minutes.
All Battle: Los Angeles has going for it is a pretty appearance. The graphics are great, with a lot of detail on both the soldier models and the ruined LA streets. Explosions are extremely well done, and it only takes a single grenade to spark a massive fireball if you throw it at a car in one of the mostly destructible environments. The aliens themselves are a bit disappointing, being nothing more than stretched-out pale ETs with guns almost identical to those the marines are toting around. What little story there is appears in distinctive comic-book cutscenes, which adds personality even though you have to wonder why the game didn't make use of clips from the movie in these spots. (Movie-related videos and other goodies are unlocked whenever you finish the game on the three difficulty settings). The audio is rather annoying. All your squadmates ever do is yell the same two or three orders about taking cover when the aliens show up. And the music consists of generic martial Hollywood tunes that you forget the moment you get off the couch.
Most demos offer lengthier, more-involving gameplay than that in the full version of Battle: Los Angeles. As a free promo for a movie, this would be a worthwhile download to fool around with for an hour or so. As a game costing $10, though, this XBLA title is a flat-out rip-off.